Haptik, a mobile concierge style service in India, has landed investment from domestic media giant Times Internet. The size of the Series B raise was not disclosed, but TechCrunch understands from a source close to the deal that is $11.2 million.
The Haptik service was launched in 2014 and it raised a $1 million seed round that year. It draws comparisons with buzzy U.S. startup Magic in that you can use it to get any kind of service or solve a problem. But, while Magic uses SMS, Haptik has its own chat app to organize and filter requests.
“We understand you’re busy, so the idea is you outsource your headache to a Haptik Assistant and tend to the more important things in life. We get shit done for you in a matter of minutes,” the company writes on its website.
To date, that proposition has taken Haptik past one million downloads on iOS and Android, and won it a partnership with Samsung, which is using the startup to power its ‘My Assistant’ service that is pre-installed on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge in India.
Haptik said it processes half a million requests each month, with the most common related to shopping, travel, food delivery, restaurant booking and mobile plan costs. Guaranteeing a volume of interest from users has helped it strike partnerships with Flipkart, Cleartrip, Via.com, Urbanclap, and Dineout, each of which tackles those aforementioned common requests.
As of now, Haptik is staffed by “an army” of concierge workers, but it is increasing its emphasis on artificial intelligence — much like the ‘M’ concierge that Facebook is testing in the U.S.. AI can be a win-win, because — when it works well — it provides users with an answer faster than a human, and it removes the cost of that worker from Haptik’s balance sheet. The company said that around one-quarter of its requests are currently completed by AI.
Linking up with Times Internet could help Haptik massively increase its visibility and userbase in India. The media firm claims to touch some 150 million per month, via its many online media businesses which cover news, sport, e-commerce and more.
For Times Internet, this is a second recent investment in so-called on demand startups. It bought a majority stake in Taskbucks, a mobile-focused task marketplace, back in November. Times Internet CEO (now managing director) Satyan Gajwani told us at the time that “there are one or two more things coming soon,” and it looks like this was one of them.
“Haptik is a magical experience for consumers, and it’s part of a growing global trend towards chat-based commerce. They have great affinity amongst their current users, and we hope to help them continue to innovate on the service, while expanding their userbase,” Gautam Sinha, who recently became CEO of Times Internet as Gajwani shifted to MD, said in a statement.
Chat is indeed becoming a major media channel in India (not to mention the rest of the world). Not only is the South Asia country one of the largest WhatsApp markets on the planet, but we’ve seen startups like Lookup, which connects consumers with retailers and recently raised $2.5 million, begin to take off. Of course, things could get trickier as and when Facebook decides to make a wider play for this space. And India, as one of the world’s most populous markets, is sure to be on its list at some point in the not-too-distant future.